Work-Life Balance &
Knowing When to Drop the Ball

The importance of work-life balance as a small business owner, and how to go about achieving it​

Olivia, Copywriter

Olivia

Creative Copywriter

If you’ve ever wondered… work-life balance? What work-life balance?! Then know that you’re not alone.

The past decade has seen a rise in the ‘hustle’ mentality. The ‘grind till you give out’ pressure to perform. And to be honest, it’s kind of exhausting just to think about. 

Yet the truth is that to run a successful pet industry business, it’s essential to establish a work-life balance. It’s the only way you’re going to be able to grow as a business, and not crash out long before you reach your goals.

We know that a small business is almost always born out of three things: passion, persistence and a strong vision of what your future could look like. The dream of an active calendar, heaps of glowing customer reviews, incredibly healthy profits… Of being known as the ‘go-to’ business in your niche… of attracting an engaged and active community who can’t help but rave about your products or services.  

And it’s this dream, this vision, which often leads to small business owners – especially in the pet sector – committing to this school of thought that to get anywhere, they’ll have to dig deep and sacrifice to make it work. To never take their foot off the gas, lest an opportunity slip on by. 

So you put it into practice, working non-stop to make the dream come true. You face challenges head-on, answer emails at your kid’s swimming practice and skip lunch for that last-minute meeting. You say yes, yes and yes some more. 

Slowly, gradually and with a lot of effort – it happens. Orders flow in, the books are balancing out and the customers are happy. 

But why doesn’t the dream doesn’t feel like you thought it would? 

Why does it actually feel more like a nightmare?

A crammed schedule, overflowing appointment books and barely a moment to breathe. Family time diminishes, your social life is non-existent. You might appear to be galloping ahead to those on the outside, but inside it can feel like more of an increasingly draining doggy paddle. 

This way lies burnout – the common side effect of an unbalanced life. It’s the body’s reaction to prolonged stress, and is topped off with mood swings, irritability and a general sense of exhaustion. 

Have you been there? Are you there right now? Because if there’s a ring of familiarity to the scenario we’ve just described, then it begs the question…

Why do we get so unbalanced?

Experts suggest cultural influence as one of the biggest factors affecting our ability to ‘down tools’ when we need to. Indeed, the Mental Health Foundation cites the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture as the biggest and most pressing challenge to our mental health. Because, unfortunately, ‘hustling’ and increased working hours have become the norm. A full calendar is now an aspirational goal, busyness a distorted badge of honour.

Technology also has a hand in this. Smartphones mean we carry our work with us everywhere, especially if you are your own company. Your small business now has the ability to bleed into your evenings and weekends – a relatively new phenomenon and one that has, evidently, become increasingly difficult for us to self-police.

Adding to that, in recent months the pet industry has seen significant growth. Across the board sales surged from the onset of global lockdowns, and it shows no sign of letting up. Saying “no” at a time of strong demand can be tough. The inbuilt mechanisms of scarcity, the wish to succeed and automatic acceptance can be a hard one to switch to shift.

Plus, we can’t forget that to work in the pet care industry, or any customer-focused small business, often requires an innate desire to help others. You aspire to make life better for others by providing a great quality of life for them – and their pets! While the motivation and commitment to providing an excellent customer experience are admirable, it sets many entrepreneurs up for myriad work-life balance issues.

With every sign pointing to go, go, go, you might be wondering what’s the benefit in hitting pause? Why should you, when the vast majority will be powering on ahead?

Why is work-life balance important?

When it comes to your work hours, more isn’t always better.

Studies have, in fact, indicated that working more than the standard amount can be as detrimental to your health as well as it is to your productivity. More hours tends to correlate with higher levels of workplace stress, which can lead to poor cognitive function, low energy and irritability.

In other words, a good work-life balance is essential if you, and your workforce, want to put your best paw forward in business.

The benefits of work-life balance:

  • Increased productivity – No one works their best when they’re strung out. By finding more balance, stress levels are likely to reduce and become more manageable. This means we will feel more confident and capable of facing challenges, rather than feeling despondent or defeated by them!
  • Attract the best employees – Businesses that gain a reputation for encouraging work-life balance have become very attractive. Especially to the next generation of workers who largely consider it their top priority. The process of replacing employees can be pretty expensive and time-consuming, so consider it a good long-term investment to promote down-time and rest, as much as you want to encourage commitment and dedication.
  • Let creativity flourish – with more time comes mental, emotional and physical space. And this mental, emotional and physical space allows for ideas. New ideas that could attract new customers, or completely revolutionise your market. Some companies have already started to implement creative’ time for their employees. Innovation can’t always be found in burying ourselves in work; sometimes it can only be found when stepping away from the keyboard, taking a dog for a long walk and letting the fresh air clear the cobwebs.
  • Quality relationshipsThe Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked the lives of 724 men for 79 years. Researchers hoped to discover the secret to success, happiness and a good life. The study found that relationships are the biggest factor in our health, happiness and quality of life. Meaning time spent on our relationships is never time wasted! (And no, the relationship we have with our devices does not count here.) Taking a breather from work allows us the opportunity to nurture these all-important relationships, and isn’t that we all really want at the end of the day?

Clearly, finding more time for our life outside work is a good thing. But easier said than done, right?

So how do we go about making time for ourselves, as small business owners?

The benefits of work-life balance:

  • Do the maths – speaking to small business owners, a lot of us struggle with calculating how to ‘fit it all in’. Step one is to find out how much you actually need to work to keep your business thriving. Then compare that to how much you are currently doing. It can be a very interesting exercise and illuminate where you might be overdoing it unnecessarily. With this in your back pocket, set some realistic but healthy target hours to stick to. (Bonus tip: if you’re unsure how long a task usually takes, consider downloading a time tracking app on your laptop or phone to calculate your average timings.)

     

  • Run your diary, don’t let it run you – moving forward, try to be strict with your targets. Set some boundaries for yourself, blocking out time in your schedule for yourself and your relationships. Start with small steps, like a  proper lunch break every day! Take long weekends and holidays when you can. Prioritise periods of deep rest, where you completely remove yourself from work – physically and mentally. This might make you break out in a cold sweat, or might seem ‘selfish’  But it isn’t bad or selfish to want to be your best. When it comes to being a good friend, parent or CEO – the better you feel in yourself, the better you are going to be in those roles too.

     

  • Streamline – the Mental Health Foundation counsels suggest we should combat our overworking addiction by changing how we work. ‘Work smart, not long. Think about small ways you can cut back on areas that eat up time. Create a uniform for your workdays, if you don’t have one already. Schedule Zoom calls rather than in-person meetings. If you can afford it, outsource! Let Genies (like us!) focus on areas that can be so time-consuming for a business owner – such as marketing, content creation, system management and automation implementation. It means you can focus on what really matters – why you started your business in the first place!

     

  • DisconnectGoogle ran a study recently that found its employees are much happier if they ‘segment’, when they feel they can leave their work at work. Employees were encouraged to drop off their devices at the front desk before going home for the night. The findings were ‘blissful, stressless evenings’ (and doesn’t that sound fantastic?) Finding ways to leave work in the office can be tough when you work from home. But small things, like a blanket over your work desk, shutting the door of the office and a phone-free alarm clock can really help.

     

  • Re-connect – Research suggests social connection is one of the greatest predictors of happiness and reduced stress. Interestingly, increasing social investments during periods of stress has been shown to be beneficial during difficult periods at work, often the opposite of our natural reaction to bury ourselves in more paperwork! Find ways to build social time into work time. Celebrate milestones and birthdays, think about community initiatives you could join, and try to keep family time as much a priority as your business baby.

     

  • Small joys In a recent survey, 80% of pet owners say their pet makes them feel less lonely and less stressed. Working in a happiness-inducing industry is a godsend, so make sure you aren’t too busy to miss the perks! That includes your own furry friend too.

So, perhaps use your new (proper) lunch break to take your dog for that long walk, using this time as a non-pressurised space to think up new strategies for better growth. Use this time to continue dreaming like you used to dream, about how your small business will lead the way to a healthier and happier work-life.

It’s time to learn when to drop the ball. Are you with us?

If you’d like to discuss how to achieve a healthy work-life balance, whilst continuing to grow your business with support from The Growth Genies team, please feel free to reach out to us here.